Friday Flash: A Dangerous Thirst

 We have an all-new story for you! As a way of warming up for work on the next novel, I hunted up some random story prompts, and found an opening paragraph in my files. That paragraph is pretty much all gone, but it gave me the following story. I would categorize this as comic horror.


A Dangerous Thirst

Half mad with the shaking, whimpering, head-throbbing withdrawal, I charged across the room. I would have that drink. I must have that drink, and damn the cost.

I could not give up the cup of coffee the bookshelf had taken prisoner.

A direct charge at the line of leering, jeering knick-knacks did no good. They closed ranks around the steaming paper cup with its stylized and sanitized green mermaid, and I dared not reach between their ranks to claim my prize. After all, it seemed, my addiction hadn’t yet driven me to utter madness. I deeply regretted buying that bronze statuette of an ancient Greek warrior—he was small, but looked more than capable of using the sword to whack off some fingers, if not my whole hand.

The china shepherdesses cowered away from him and from me, but they kept the coffee out of reach behind them, nonetheless.

They were trying to break my addiction, and I wasn’t having it. Or perhaps they merely wished to torment me. I couldn't say.

I’m not crazy. It’s not like I thought they were talking to me. They didn’t move, either. At least, not so I could see it. But there was no denying that the coffee cup I’d set down for a moment on the edge of the shelf was now walled in by a phalanx of decorative items. Items that, until a minute ago, I’d rather liked, with all their kitschy appeal.

In any case, I’d needed something to fill the bookshelves after I’d gotten rid of the books. Who needed all that paper, when I could put anything I wanted to read onto my Kindle and save space? Books were such awful dust-catchers, too. The doctor said it would be better for my allergies to go all-digital.

Never mind that the trinkets I’d picked up at thrift stores and antique shops had to be dusted daily, something that I suppose might have saved the books.

Now I wondered. I still called that bit of furniture a bookshelf. Did it resent being demoted to a holder for china shepherdesses and pseudo-bronze statues? All those deep-down tacky things I liked in a cynical, ironic way.

I shook my head. Caffeine withdrawal was making me think ridiculous things, borderline hallucinations. A piece of furniture couldn’t have opinions about the uses to which it was put, and knick-knacks couldn’t keep a cup of coffee from me.

But there was that sword…

Maybe I’d just go get another cup of coffee. Starbucks was only half a block away.

That coffee cost me four-fifty. That was already a dollar over my budget, all because I’d run out of fresh beans and couldn’t make my own latte.

I’d go to the grocery store. Get more beans.

I had a deadline to meet, and no time for a trip that never took less than an hour. My neighborhood had convenience stores and Starbucks and a McDonalds on the corner, but you had to travel for good food or coffee beans. It was why I’d gotten Starbucks in the first place, instead of visiting a real coffee shop.

No, I’d have my coffee, and get that article written. If speed couldn’t do it, perhaps stealth would work.


No amount of sneaking up on the shelf freed my coffee. No matter what I did there seemed to be sharp edges around the cup, the warrior’s sword, a shepherd’s crook, a farmer with a sickle. I was desperate, the heat seeping from my coffee as I failed over and over to rescue the paper cup.

In the end, I gave in.

I went to the closet for that last box of books, the ones I hadn’t been able to bring myself to give away. Dragging the box into my office, I opened it and made a stack next to the shelves.

No change in the coffee situation.

Resolutely, I took up a long wooden bookend.

One by one, I knocked the guardian knick-knacks to the floor. They bounced or broke as their natures dictated. It didn’t matter. They were all headed to the dumpster, or maybe the thrift shop.

Maybe not. What if they really were possessed, and this wasn’t all just the result of my withdrawal symptoms? My swings grew faster, wilder, sending my enemies flying, scattering shards of gaudy ceramic across the floor.

The way clear, I snatched the still-warm cup, sucked down great gulps of life-giving fluid. The cup drained to the dregs, I tossed it aside with a triumphant laugh.

When my vision cleared, I gulped at the mess. Shattered china figurines, chipped wood, even the ancient warrior lay on the floor, his sword bent in the fall.

A little horrified by what I’d done, I swept up the shards, and boxed up anything worth saving. I hesitated over a couple of things. I liked that wooden cat, rendered with just enough lines and curves that there was no doubt what it was. I looked at the bookshelf and put the cat in the box. I couldn’t afford the risk.

The mess cleared, I began to file my old books on the shelves. I might have gone mad, but I wasn’t taking any more chances with my coffee.


Don't forget--the Pismawallops PTA Mysteries #5 is now available in all formats!


 ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2021
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